Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Nord Westrom on "Provenance Puffery"

Nord Westrom (Provenance Provenance Puffery at upcoming Pre-Columbian art auction )  also discusses the question of the collection of antiquities ("art") being put up for sale by the Dodge gallery (see my post here on "Exceptional Pre-Columbian Art From Hollywood" )::
Nearly every one of the 148 items in the February 1, 2013, Pre-Columbian art auction by Antiquities-Saleroom has no dated provenance despite a press release that proclaims: “Provenance and pedigree combine to form a compelling reason to bid in Antiquities Saleroom’s Feb. 1 sale of premier Pre-Columbian art.” In the entire sale, only six works have a dated provenance, of which four are pre-1970. Nevertheless, the press release later notes: “Most pieces in the auction boast provenance from distinguished sources, including Sotheby’s, Christie’s, the Denver Art Museum and even Andy Warhol, who reportedly had a discerning eye for antiquities.” Yet, “most pieces in the auction boast” no dated provenance – more than 95%. 
He notes that the assurances of the online catalogue concern mainly the "authenticity" of the items being sold (meaning what, that they have a physical existence, or something more, and itf more, what? Left undefined by the sellers) and the celebrity-news editorializing of some of the "pedigrees". What is interesting here is that some of this has clearly been added by the seller to their catalogue since I copy-and-pasted the same non-provenance into my post just  few days ago. Nice to see the dealers taking note of criticism - but "(most famous gold authenticator in US!)" really does little to assuage doubts about how the item left the ground, and source country and entered the US market.

There are a couple of interesting comments about the terminology of "provenance" etc which it would be nice to see developed.

Note the discrepancy in numbers, when I downloaded the catalogue, the number of items on sale was  115 items, now it seems it contains 148 items, includung a confusing series of duplicate lot numbers for some reason. Certainly the "provenences" being amended after posting online adds to the impression that this online auction is being put together in a very haphazard manner.

So if Mr Dodge has more information about where those items came from other than what has been exhibited in the sales offers, maybe he'd like to put it all up front so we can see whether his extravagant claims about the collection's exceptional collecting histories are in any way justified, because belonging of this or that piece to this or that minor US "celebrity" really is in no way a substitute for a proper and verifiable collecting history proving licit origins beyond any doubt.

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